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SSEC Starfish meetings

Friday 27th April 2017, 08:04

If ever there was a time for keeping CD people close, this is it.

Cuts in funding has endangered the ability of CD people to stay connected; as people lose their jobs, isolation is a very real threat, and it's proving very hard to get back into the field as so many are searching for the rare new job. In the past we've had national and regional CD meetings to hold us together but these network organisations are also disappearing rapidly. And many other parts of the sector are going along with Government dismissal of CD as old hat, too tied to the state's agenda and too controlling.

So we need to regather ourselves to take on these crises, so that we don't also lose our confidence in CD and each other. We've still got loads to offer!  Here's comes the Starfish...

SSEC is currently visiting local workers and activists to set up CD support meetings in local areas; it means that people don't have to travel far, and we can use cheap or free venues to take money out of the equation. We call these get-togethers our starfish meetings, not because we're a bunch of old hippies (I am, actually) but because the Starfish is a symbol of how limbs can work together without a head or leader; you can cut off any limb from a starfish (please don't) and it will survive.

So how can we go forward collectively and locally, without creating new hierarchies and without the need for a central organising body? The methodology for initial local starfish meetings  involves SSEC staff working alongside a SSEC member to plan and publicise an initial meeting, using free local venues wherever possible and publicising via SSEC websites, NatCAN and Our Society, and any local communications media. SSEC staff are attending the first meeting in each local “starfish group” to explain why the starfish approach has been adopted, and model a basic “open space” method of facilitation to experience how meetings can be conducted without the need for a pre-set agenda or guest speakers/expert facilitators. What holds it all together is the regard of all for putting CD values into practice: social justice, inclusion/equalities, mutual learning, collective action, community empowerment

Because people work together at the start of the meeting to create their own agenda, it means that there is no single line or topic or interest; everyone's issues and interests are being met, with lots of debate and sharing. This way, a leaderless, independent  group of people (a community!)  can continue to meet regularly and evolve its own programme/organisation/  online connectivity etc (and SSEC can still signpost them to online support opportunities via SSEC, Our Society, NatCAN etc) .

Starfish groups are currently forming throughout England with SSEC light-touch support, so please contact us at SSEC if you'd like our help to set-up your first local meeting. Once we have a few starfish groups across the country, it's up to them to use any opportunities to link up with each other whenever it feels right or necessary.

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